Mrs. P&P is a teacher, mama, and content creator at https://problemsandprojects.com, where she shares her experiences and helps people conquer challenges in the home and budget:
Like many of you, my whole life turned upside down last March when my home state of Texas suddenly shut down. First, I sank. Then, I started figuring out how to survive lockdown.
To start, let’s share a little back story since this is probably our first introduction! In February, we moved into a new (and pricier) home in an effort to stop hemorrhaging money from our previous Money Pit house.
Our precarious new living situation increased our expenses, and we knew everything needed to go exactly according to plan while we crawled out of debt. Enter COVID. Could we cover our new expenses while paying off our old debt?
Our pantry was practically bare. Finding food, diapering supplies, toiletries, medications, and other essentials swiftly turned into a scavenging nightmare. Should I have prepared earlier? Yes! But I didn’t because we all came down with a mysterious, flu-like, respiratory illness right after the move that didn’t show up on any available tests… Could we get the necessities? And would this fever/headache ever break? (Spoiler: Not for over a month!)
The biggest juggling act of all, though, came with our jobs. Hubs and I both teach elementary school. We left for Spring Break as the virus began to spread and were told right before our anticipated return that we were remote teachers.
Oh, and our daycare shut down for the remainder of the school year to protect caregivers and children. No family around to help, either, as everyone had gone into quarantine for health reasons. Overnight, we found ourselves alone.
As a dual income family with a toddler facing a $40,000 mountain of debt and a newly increased mortgage payment, continuing to work was the only option. We found ourselves in the same position as millions of other families. How would we both work full time jobs with no childcare, no family support, limited savings, and a whole lot of anxiety?
I learned a few lessons to help me survive lockdown along the way. Hopefully, they can help you navigate our strange, new normal.
1. I Had to Make a Schedule
For my family, lockdown was not a mini vacation, a break, extra free time, or even a furlough/unemployment situation. We both had full time jobs, and we put in way more work as virtual teachers!
We had to juggle two instructional school days, 6 virtual meeting schedules, extra lesson planning, training kids for remote education on devices they didn’t know how to use, unannounced district training, chasing down student work, and daily parent contact. Oh, and we occasionally had to feed and entertain my needy two year old…
Without a solid schedule, I stood no chance of surviving lockdown. Every single day, from 6 am to 6 pm, I planned my day in hourly blocks. Every meeting, live lesson, planning period, meal time, and nap were scheduled out in grueling detail. I even made a weekly calendar on grid paper and pinned it to the wall.
It was the only way we could do our jobs and make sure someone could care for our toddler at all times.
2. I Had to Make Sacrifices
I’m sad to admit that I didn’t spend as much time with my child as I wanted. In fact, about a month into lockdown, my daughter was so sick of being juggled all day, she decided she was done nursing. Even though I was not.
It wasn’t the end of the world or anything. She was two years old, after all. But I thought I’d have one more summer of nursing before I finished for good, and I had to choose between doing my job and convincing my toddler to keep nursing. By July, our beloved nightly nursing session had all but disappeared.
I sacrificed other things, too, to keep us safe. My daughter’s second birthday party, our annual Easter family gathering, visits from grandparents, time at the park. Once food shortages kicked in, I even had to forego many of my organic food staples. They simply weren’t available anymore.
I couldn’t juggle everything anymore with all the added challenges of telecommuting with a toddler.
3. I Took Time to Mourn My Losses
Don’t be fooled. We’ve suffered a collective trauma. Lives upended, family members lost. Our normal no longer exists. It’s ok to take time to experience that feeling of loss. It’s totally valid.
I needed process time to work through all my feelings about the sudden, unplanned end of my nursing journey, Baby Girl’s lost time with her family, of feeling like we were just a little bit trapped in our lives, of losing any sense of peace or stability life once had.
Don’t be ashamed to admit that this sucks! You deserve to honor those feelings.
4. I Learned to Practice Gratitude
Once the sudden shock and mourning period passed, I made a point of practicing gratitude every day. I hated the whole two-teachers-one-toddler-no-childcare thing. It often felt impossible. But we still had a lot to be thankful for.
We both had an income when so many others did not. Eventually, I restocked our pantry. We no longer lived in a drafty, busted up old rat-toilet. Our health had finally started to improve again.
We even found that we could pay off more of our debt than anticipated each month. We’ve also been fortunate not to have lost any loved ones so far. I didn’t spend as much time with my kid as I hoped, but I did spend more time.
I have eyes, and I know my situation was so much better than so many other people’s. So, I started looking for those positives in a world of darkness.
Now, I’ve got to get on my soapbox for a minute.
*It’s ok to feel gratitude and loss simultaneously. These feelings are not mutually exclusive. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to ignore your pain. Those experiences are VALID! The whole “It could be worse” thing really rubs me the wrong way, and I’m not about to tell anyone that they should be satisfied with their trauma just because someone else’s is worse.*
5. I Started Getting Ready
Nothing shines a light on the holes in your life plans quite like a global pandemic. There we were, right in the middle of a crisis, and we had a barren pantry, a flimsy emergency savings, and a whole lot of extra debt.
As the dust started to settle on our new lockdown experience, I looked for ways to help my family prepare to weather the storm we might face. We had very little extra money and no guarantees about our employment situation.
We took time to evaluate our budget, change our priorities (we started saving a lot more money and paying off a lot more debt), and ensure that we had a backup plan in the event of financial problems without a fully funded savings account.
I think one of our big takeaways from all this should be that none of our plans and expectations are securely set in stone. What can you do now to make sure you can handle the next big surprise?
6. I Learned to Let Go and Give Myself Grace
Most importantly, during this lockdown experience, I’ve had to take a realistic look at what I could accomplish.
My kid watched way too much TV. Virtual learning was extremely rough. I definitely packed on the COVID 19 (Is it ok to name my lockdown weight gain like this? All the cool kids are doing it…) My house did not stay clean every day. I don’t think I hit a single blog goal or deadline.
Basically, I learned that I’m a human with limits. It’s ok if you’re eating hot dogs for the 4th night in a row, or if the school work doesn’t all get done right away, or if you haven’t showered since Thursday.
You can clean up the diet later. The kids will catch up and those learning gaps will be filled again (I promise). Nobody needs a shower everyday anyway.
I shrugged it off when my toddler interrupted a lesson by crawling in my lap and repeatedly shouting, “I want boobie” (and now I miss those days terribly). It wasn’t my fault when a parent in the background dropped an F-bomb on my morning meeting. This is virtual employment.
Trust me, none of us has this all figured out. That’s a lie your social media accounts tell you. You’re doing just fine, you’re good enough, and you’ve got this! Even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
Even now, as we prepare to transition back to in-person schooling and my childcare situation is solved (for now, anyway), I’m still figuring out how to survive. Lockdown might technically be over, but nothing is really “normal”.
And that might be the worst.
But it’s also ok.
Bio: Mrs. P&P is a teacher, mama, and content creator at https://problemsandprojects.com, where she shares her experiences and helps people conquer challenges in the home and budget. You can also check out how her family is chipping away at tens of thousands in consumer debt through monthly budget reports that detail real life spending, savings, and debt payoff. If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the blog and follow on social media!